The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

June 7, 2013

Documents released about blast

Federal investigators are releasing more than 1,400 pages of documents about a natural gas pipeline explosion in Sissonville, but they won’t provide any analysis or identify the probable cause of the near-disaster last December.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday’s document dump will be factual in nature, including interview transcripts and photos.

Officials won’t be answering any questions.

Conclusions and the likely cause of the explosion will come when the final investigation report is finished.

A buried 20-inch transmission line owned and operated by Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. ruptured on Dec. 11, 2012, about 100 feet west of Interstate 77 in Sissonville.

‘The blast hurled a 20-foot section of pipe more than 40 feet.

No one was killed or seriously injured, but the explosion and resulting fireball destroyed several homes and cooked a stretch of I-77.

A preliminary investigation found the decades-old pipe had corroded, losing 70 percent of its original thickness.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller held a field hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee on the explosion in January, seeking lessons from that blast and others.

A September 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., killed eight people, injured dozens and destroyed dozens of homes, and a July 2010 pipeline rupture spewed 843,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into Michigan waterways — the most expensive onshore spill in U.S. history.   

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said each of the three incidents involved pipelines from the 1960s or older.

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